Maxime Mermoz, former three-quarter international center and now beIN SPORTS consultant, looks at the European round of 16 in which French clubs compete. No waffle…
Ulster – Toulouse
For Stade Toulouse and its attacking army, six points behind is nothing. Especially since I didn’t find Ulster very dominant in the first leg; in numerical superiority, the Irish did not add enough points to create a real difference. At Ravenhill, the key for Toulouse will therefore be to dent the opponent in the rucks and then put some speed back, as they did so well at times in the first leg. If they succeed, there will be no one in front. As soon as Toulouse play at their true level, nothing can happen to them, even if the Irish crowd gives the Ulstermen an extra soul.
La Rochelle – Bordeaux-Bègles
We will still say that I am bad with Bordeaux, but the Union has really had a bad dynamic in recent weeks. Opposite, the Stade Rochelais seems to have recovered its talent, its power and its team. I am not optimistic for the UBB, which is more in a red-hot Deflandre stadium for the occasion.
Racing 92 – French stadium
The French Stadium played last Saturday so as not to take the fifty ahead of its public. But aside from character, Parisians have nothing to offer. They don’t have any particular offensive weapons and here, I don’t see what they can expect against Ciel et Blanc except breaking the rhythm and slowing down Racing’s ball releases. The first leg was technically very weak, so I think that Gaël Fickou’s teammates will want to accelerate in front of their fans and that in the end, the score could even be very heavy…
Leicester – Clermont
In recent months, Leicester have quickly realized what Clermont must do if they want to return to the top: a rebuild. The ASMCA may have great individuality, it has no collective efficiency and it will not be able to compete with the Tigers this weekend, also at Welford Road. To tell you the truth, I was very impressed by this English team, without any real stars but endowed with ultra-effective centers (Guy Porter and Harry Potter), an almost perfect pack of strikers with a monstrous number 8 (Jasper Wiese) in the middle. It’s a formidable group! In that sense, I don’t see Clermont capable of reversing the course of history… Unless Harry Potter waves his wand. But the truth, hey!
Harlequins – Montpellier
If the Harlequins continue to play champagne rugby like they did in the first leg, they won’t get far. Never forget, gentlemen, that rugby starts from the front! I have, for example, nothing against the prop Joe Marler but I looked at him last weekend and he charged the whole game: in the scrum he is useless and in the game he does not advance further. Some guys on this team are sailing for their reputation or their sympathy capital. Marler, he’s great as a party host, he makes great jokes but he played it backwards on Sunday. When you compare him to Tigre Ellis Genge or Cyril Baille, there is no comparison! And number 8, Alex Dombrandt, hey! He did not exist against Zach Mercer, his vis-à-vis Montpellier! It is clear that if MHR sticks together defensively and leaves no room for this ultra-attacking team, they will easily earn their ticket to the quarter-finals.